The credits rolled, the veteran NBC News host, Brian Williams, sat behind his desk and the headlines began: "The portrait of a volcanic president who wants a newspaper to hand over a mole to his own government." Or, as we call it, on Wednesday night.
Volcanic? The president was Vesuvian. He was firing molten lava in all directions and clouds of sulfurous gas rose in the damp Washington sky before what had become the last, and perhaps the greatest, betrayal: an excoriating attack on him in the New York Times. , apparently written by an anonymous member of his staff.
There are no quiet days or quiet weeks in Trump's presidency. There is no period in which the buzzing government machine forms a carefully assembled and thought-out policy, whose implementation proceeds effortlessly.
There are times when you can feel the chaos. I was at a press conference a couple of weeks ago, where the president's long-suffering press secretary, Sarah Sanders, looked like she had not caught the eye. Probably not.
Then there is the regular drama. I and other journalists left Air Force One to get us quickly to the press buses, just to get us out again because the president had changed his mind about the itinerary. Talk to the authorities and either shrug their shoulders with a "What can I do?" Or, after a few drinks, they will vent.
President Donald Trump arrives at a political rally at the Charleston Civic Center in West Virginia
It is quite exhausting to report on this president. But working for him? When I had my famous clash with Donald Trump, when he criticized me in a televised press conference and called me "another beauty", it was precisely because of that.
I challenged him about whether this administration could be described as a machine without problems. He has always insisted that it be so.
But the claim is gone.
Things were already pretty bad on Tuesday when the excerpts came from Bob Woodward's book, which will soon be published, and officials talked about the dystopian dysfunction of this White House.
According to Woodward, half of the duo of Washington Post investigators who helped expose Watergate, White House chief of staff John Kelly, had referred to the president as deranged. The Secretary of Defense described him as a fifth or sixth grade student, in other words, a ten year old boy.
The former chief economic adviser apparently removed the papers from the Oval Office desk, fearing the economic damage Trump could do if he signed them. And in that it was.
The White House did what you do in those circumstances: it surrounded the cars. But it was the events of the next 24 hours that removed the top of the volcano. A senior administration official wrote a condemnatory opinion piece for the New York Times, with the headline: "I am part of the resistance within the Trump Administration."
It is, at first glance, the most biting invective you could read. An essay by a senior official on how he and she and others are engaged in a concerted effort to protect the United States from Trump's excesses.
That is one way of saying it. The other is to say that this is an effort to subvert the President's agenda and the will of the millions of Americans who voted for him.
My jaw does not fall easily after 20 months of covering Trump's presidency, but I had stopped reading when I finished reading the last sentence of this opinion piece about the President's shortcomings.
He is "impetuous, adversary, petty and ineffective". And Mr. or Mrs. Anonymous continues: "He gets involved in repetitive skirmishes, and his impulsiveness results in half-baked, misinformed and sometimes reckless decisions that have to go back."
This treacherous article concludes with the self-justification that he or she is part of the "silent resistance" that puts the "country first". But listen to an alternative argument. The country went to the polls Almost 63 million Americans voted for Trump, and according to the rules of the electoral college was the duly elected president.
And, besides, nobody can say that he is not doing what he promised. The renegotiation of trade agreements, the stricter immigration laws, the confrontation of North Korea, the reduction of taxes, the exit of Iran's nuclear agreement, the reduction of regulations, are exactly what he promised during the campaign.
As Sarah Sanders pointed out, while it may not always be beautiful, Trump's economic policies are paying dividends, 200,000 new jobs were created, wages grew at their fastest pace in nine years and unemployment at an all-time low of 3.9 percent .
So, what legitimacy does the writer have in declaring that he or she is the guardian of American democracy? For good or bad, the elections are decided at the polls and, in November 2016, the Americans spoke.
If you are not satisfied with the administration's travel address, you have the option to resign and fight Trump's agenda in the upcoming elections.
Or you stay and discuss your corner. But if you lose the battle while fighting from within, your duty as a public servant is to enact the policy that has been agreed upon.
President Donald Trump speaks as he meets the Emir of Kuwait Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah
There are two other things that Trump said repeatedly during the campaign, which were designed to appeal to those who always like to smell the conspiracy: there was a "deep state" – powerful, but secret forces at the heart of the establishment – and that Washington was a swamp that needed to be drained.
Lurking in all the neoclassical columns were bad actors whose loyalty was to the status quo, which would frustrate the newly elected president and overthrow him as if their lives depended on it.
At the time, I thought it was extremely biased, designed to show that Trump was the non-politician in the race, the creator of change and the popular tribune facing deeply entrenched elites.
However, the New York Times article can be seen as the very definition of the deep state.
Maybe I was watching too much of the political thriller House of Cards on TV, but I've begun to think conspiratorially about whether the article could have been written by Trump himself as a means to justify an offensive against those around him, while demanding more unlimited power in decision-making. I can not see him writing those nasty things about him. Now we are likely to see the president become even more distrustful of those around him and allow even fewer people to participate in decision-making, which must be a bad thing for the government.
Another thought: if you are part of a deep state conspiracy, do not you just close your mouth instead of announcing what you're doing in the New York Times? I know that in spycraft, hiding in plain sight can be powerfully effective. But this? I'm not sure it strengthens your hand.
Mr. or Mrs. Anonymous, you probably never heard of the late Sir Alan Walters, Margaret Thatcher's economic adviser for a while, as he tried to fight the cabinet's demands that Britain join the precursor of the single currency.
It is believed that he has Svengali powers over the Iron Lady. Some in his cabinet wanted to be banished, and finally they succeeded. But not before came the memorable phrase, designed to calm fears: "Advisors advise, ministers decide."
The problem for Mr or Ms Anonymous is that they were not chosen to decide. Donald Trump was.
- Jon Sopel is the author of If Only They Not Speak English, Notes From Trump & # 39; s America, which is available in paperback.